Friday, January 14, 2011

Will Unbelievers Be Ushered Into The Millennium?

I was recently asked, "Will unbelievers be ushered into the Millennium?".  It's an interesting question, but I would like to back up just a bit to cover the bases and be sure I address all aspects of the question.  It ends up being a nice, general overview of the end times, death, and eternity...

To begin, let's examine what will happen to all the unbelievers that have lived and died up to this point (or that die between now and the millennium, which includes the tribulation period that is yet to happen).  Currently they go to a place that the Bible refers to as "Hades".  Without going into too much detail beyond the scope of this article, Hades is a temporary place where spirits of unbelievers go upon their physical death.  Before Christ died on the cross, Hades has two compartments: One called "paradise" (a.k.a. "Abraham's Bosom") and the other "torments" (their difference can easily be inferred from their names). 

Knowing what Hades is helps explain the story of Lazarus and the rich man, wherein we learn they were able to see each other and communicate after their mutual deaths; but they could not cross the chasm (Luke 16:19-31). That scene took place before Christ's crucifixion.  It also explains why we read how Jesus descended to Hades and preached to the spirits (1 Peter 3:18-20). 

We are not given the text of the sermon Jesus preached in Hades, but one can imagine He may have explained to the Old Testament saints in paradise that their sins had been forgiven once and for all: not with blood sacrifices of animals, but with the sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God, Jesus.  When Jesus ascended to heaven, He also took the believers that were in paradise with Him (Ephesians 4:8-10); thus, paradise is now heaven.  Those in the place of torments were primary recipients of the message, and were left behind. 

Most people are familiar with the scene where Jesus said to the thief on the cross next to Him and who asked Him for mercy, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  It would seem the thief may have had a very short "lay over" in the paradise side of Hades — just long enough to hear Jesus' sermon before He went to heaven with Jesus and the Old Testament saints.  We read in Revelation 20:14-15 that at the end of the millennium (just before "eternity"), death and Hades will be thrown into the "lake of fire" (hell).

So that leaves us with those people alive now that may go through the tribulation.  That will not include Christians, as they will be in the Rapture of the Church (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).  Christians will be rewarded for their good faithful service during their time on earth and/or will lose rewards for their lack of service and obedience (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Meanwhile, back on planet earth the Antichrist will arise.  Many Bible prophecy scholars believe the tribulation will happen soon after the Rapture, as a direct result of the Rapture — because once the Church leaves, so too will the Holy Spirit who is holding back the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:6-12). 

One of the most notable events that will signal the Antichrist's arrival will be when he confirms a covenant with the people of Israel for seven years (Daniel 9:27).  Also referred to as "Daniel's 70th Week", it somewhat aligns with the tribulation (though it does not necessarily have to be in perfect sync).  The tribulation will be a terrible time when Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet (the "unholy trinity") will severely persecute Jews and Christians.  There will also be wars, famines, plagues, and natural disasters of which have never been as bad as until that time.  God will also be pouring out His wrath against the evil people of the world and their wickedness. 

As Daniel 9:27 further explains, in the middle of the seven year period the Antichrist will break that covenant he made.  He will then commit “the abomination of desolation” and set up an image of himself to be worshipped in the Temple (Daniel 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10).  (For that to happen, of course, the Jewish Temple will have to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.)  That abomination will bring about the second half of the tribulation, which is called “the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14) and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).  It will be a time worse than ever and the Bible says that it would have to be for only that limited time because, if sustained, no human would survive (Matthew 24:22, ).

Near the end of the tribulation, Satan, the earthly forces he recruits via the Antichrist and False Prophet, and the fallen angels he currently commands will engage in what is known as The Battle of Armageddon.  It will be a vain, last ditch effort to defeat God's plan by trying to destroy His people (the Jewish nation of Israel).  However, that will not happen: not even close.  Jesus Christ will return with "thousands upon thousands" of heavenly forces (Jude 1:14-15) and destroy the Antichrist and his armies, and cast them into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:11-21).  Though the heavenly forces will accompany Him, it would seem they are just present to witness the event, as Jesus will not require their help since He alone can defeat all of the forces.  Revelation 20:1-6 explained that Jesus will do it with the sword of His Word.   (Note: to a lesser extent, we have that same power available to us, as we too have God's Word, the Bible, as our sword!).

Revelation 20:11-15 describes "The great white throne judgment", which is the final judgment prior to unbelievers being cast into the "lake of fire".  That will begin the millennium: the 1,000 year reign of Christ here on earth.

I'd like to leave you with the words of Jesus in Luke 21:36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”.  Maranatha!

Are You Ready?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jeff. God bless you brother.
    todd tomasella